Two Holy Cross Seniors Awarded Science Scholarships

December 19th, 2012 by David Cotrone ’13


Emma Colbert and Stephanie Craig, both members of the College of the Holy Cross class of 2013, are the recipients of Clare Booth Luce Scholarships, which are awarded to two women majoring in the physical sciences and who are entering their fourth year of study at the College. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board and fees. The scholarship also supports each recipient with paid research fellowships during the summer before their senior year.

A mathematics major from Westborough, Mass., Colbert is working with Sharon Frechette, associate professor of mathematics at the College. Colbert’s research builds upon a joint research project she conducted this past summer, and examines whether certain polynomials are irreducible, or are able to be factored over given number fields or finite fields.  This is a project in arithmetic dynamics, a highly active research area that involves a blend of number theory, geometry, and dynamical systems.  The irreducibility of such polynomials has potential applications to the field of cryptography (the making and breaking of secret codes).

“Emma is an extremely independent researcher,” said Frechette. “I continue to be impressed with how quickly she can absorb a research article on a new topic, and understand its theorems and work examples of her own.  She pushes through difficult mathematical constructions with the persistance of a graduate student.” 

Frechette also notes that Emma shows a deep level of understanding when giving presentations on her research. “I look forward to her upcoming talk at the Joint Mathematics Meeting in January,” said Frechette.  This is an annual national meeting that attracts over 6000 mathematicians.
 
A member of the College Honors Program and co-chair of The Delilahs, Holy Cross’ oldest female a capella group, Colbert is also one of the campuses’ SRCs (Students for Responsible Choices), and is a tutor in the mathematics department’s calculus workshop, helping students to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in upper level courses. “I feel more confident applying to graduate school for math after receiving this award,” explains Colbert.  

Craig, a chemistry and mathematics major, is continuing her work with Jude Kelley, assistant professor of chemistry at the College. She has conducted research with Kelley since the summer after her sophomore year. Craig works with lasers in order to perform laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), and is currently looking at carbon plasma samples, which decompose as they give off light, enabling Craig to determine each sample’s distinct composition so that she may further understand the elemental composition of the sample. Her work with these plasmas may benefit astronomers studying distant solar systems and nebulas. 

“Stephanie is one of the most enthusiastic researchers I have encountered in my professional career,” shares Kelley. “She is also incredibly patient, as demonstrated by her handling of a tedious set of plasma imaging experiments over the summer of 2012.”

Kelley says her dedication and patience during those experiments paid off.  They recently found out their submitted manuscript will be published this spring in the journal “Applied Spectroscopy.”

“Stephanie is the first author on the paper, as she played an integral role in performing the experiments and also contributed heavily to the final text and figures,” he explains.

From Medfield, Mass., Craig is the head tutor in the College’s calculus workshop, where she has tutored since her sophomore year. “This scholarship is a huge honor,” says Craig. “It has enabled me to pursue my research and has furthered my drive to pursue a career in chemistry.”

Clare Boothe Luce Scholarships are made possible by a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to encourage women undergraduates to major in the physical sciences, including mathematics, computer science, physics, and chemistry.

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